The first presidential debate has taken place and there’s about a month until the general election; meaning campaign season is at its peak! Scammers latch on to any large, newsworthy event in the hopes of stealing your money or identity, and the 2016 election is no exception.
During this time of year, calls and emails from fundraisers, pollsters, and voter registration drives are expected. However, you can’t automatically trust that these communications are legitimate and that callers are who they say they are. Websites, email addresses and caller IDs can all be fabricated to create a false sense of legitimacy.
Scammers are smooth and are always devising new tactics to gain your trust. Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern Coastal California warns consumers of the following potential scams that could be circulating this election season:
- Fake fundraising. Scammers may call or email you pretending to represent a variety of political actors: a candidate’s campaign, a party, a PAC, a non-profit, or a lobbying group. They’ll ask for a donation – wanting you to pay over the phone. Be careful, and don’t believe everything you hear. Before making a donation, research the candidate or organization on your own and contribute directly through their verified website. Never give personal information to an unsolicited caller.
- Re-registration scams. You may receive a call or email stating that you need to re-register to vote. Any unsolicited communication about your voter registration should be considered a big red flag. Never give away personal information to a stranger who’s calling – these scammers are trying to steal your identity. If you’re concerned about your registration status and a California voter, visit voterstatus.sos.ca.gov to see if and where you’re registered along with your polling place and other information.
- Shady surveys. If you’re told to complete a survey or political poll to receive a prize, it’s probably a scam. This fraud can take two routes: the scammer may ask for your financial information to pay for “taxes and fees” for your prize, and then disappear into the abyss. Scammers may also be trying to glean your personal information: asking for your name, address, and Social Security number. Remember the golden rule: never give away your personal or financial information to a stranger who calls you unexpectedly. Additionally, legitimate polling companies won’t offer prizes for answering questions.
- Phony vote-by-phone schemes. Watch out! It’s not possible to vote by phone. If you receive a call, email or text asking you to vote over the phone, don’t respond. These scammers may have two motives. They could be executing a voter-suppression scheme – tricking people with different beliefs in to thinking that they’ve already voted so that they don’t cast a ballot on Election Day. These fraudsters might also be trying to steal your personal information, and identity.
- Catastrophic clickbait. While surfing the internet, you might notice shocking headlines making bold claims about candidates or the election that you haven’t heard before. You may be tempted to click on these links to learn more, but beware! Often, these “clickbait” headlines lead you to a page that infects your device with malware, which can lead to identity theft and compromised credentials. Don’t click through to illegitimate “news” sites or online ads, they could be trying to hurt you.